Jessie J Reveals She Was Diagnosed With Ménière's Disease—Here’s What That Means
Jessie J is recovering after visiting the hospital on Christmas Eve. On December 24, the singer revealed that she had been diagnosed with Ménière's disease, an inner-ear condition. "I am now watching Queens Gambit with my finger in my ear," she wrote in her selfie caption. "I've done the first episode 4 times because I [have] zero focus and my ear sounds like someone crawled in and turned a hair dryer on. (sic)"
Jessie went into more details in an Instagram Stories video, explaining that she went to the hospital after the inner-ear condition left her deaf and unable to walk properly.
"I woke up and felt like I was completely deaf in my right ear, couldn't walk in a straight line," Jessie, 32, said, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. "Basically I got told I had Ménière's syndrome."
"I know that a lot of people suffer from it and I've actually had a lot of people reach out to me and give me great advice, so I've just been laying low in silence," she added. "Now's the first time I've been able to sing and bear it. I just miss singing so much and being around anyone."
Jessie continued, "It could be way worse, it is what it is. I'm super grateful for my health. It just threw me off. On Christmas Eve I was in the ear hospital going, 'What is going on?' But I'm glad I went early and they worked out what it was real quick and I got put on the right medicine, so I feel a lot better today."
Among the hundreds of comments on Jessie's post was one from Michelle Visage, an American DJ, who revealed that she also has Ménière's disease, "combined with horrendous tinnitus." "It's so weird and comes out of nowhere," Jessie replied to Visage's comment.
What is Ménière's disease?
It's a disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear, says the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
The disorder usually starts one ear, sometimes extending over time to involve both ears, and it can develop at any age, most commonly between 40 and 60. It's estimated that around 615,000 people in the US are currently diagnosed with Ménière's disease, with 45,500 new cases diagnosed each year.
What causes Ménière's disease?
Nobody knows for sure, but there are various different theories. Some experts think it's due to constrictions in blood vessels—similar to those that cause migraine headaches. Others have associated viral infections, allergies, autoimmune reactions, head injuries, and noise pollution to the condition. Ménière's disease does seem to run in families, so it could be caused by genetic variations that cause abnormalities of endolymph fluid—this stimulates receptors as the body moves in the "balance organs" within the inner ear.
It's a buildup of this endolymph fluid that causes the vertigo, tinnitus, and congested feeling in the ear. The frequency and severity of symptoms varies, with some people having single attacks of dizziness separated by long symptom-free periods—up to a year, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). On the other hand, some sufferers have multiple attacks over a short period. According to the NIDCD, some people with Ménière's disease experience vertigo that's so extreme it leads to a loss of balance, resulting in falls (known as "drop attacks").
Is there a cure for Ménière's disease?
Not yet, but there are a range of treatment options to help manage it. Prescription meds like meclizine, diazepam, glycopyrrolate, and lorazepam can help relieve dizziness and shorten the length of attacks. Some people find that restricing their intake of dietary salt and taking diuretics (water pills) helps control their dizziness by reducing the level of fluid the body retains.
Cutting out or limiting caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol may also have a positive impact, as may quitting smoking.
Ménière's disease is often linked to stress and anxiety, although it's not clear whether stress and anxiety cause symptoms of Ménière's disease, or whether the condition itself triggers stress and anxiety. Either way, a type of talk therapy known as cognitive therapy, which challenges negative thought patterns to change unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders, may help people with Ménière's disease cope better with their attacks and feel less anxious about future attacks.
Injecting the antibiotic gentamicin into the middle ear helps control dizziness but this comes with a serious risk—damage to the microscopic hair cells in the inner ear that help with hearing, thus increasing the risk of hearing loss. Some doctors opt for a corticosteroid injection instead, which often helps reduce dizziness but comes with no risk of hearing loss.
When all other options have been exhausted, surgery may be recommended, either to decompress the endolymphatic sac or—less frequently—cut the vestibular nerve, which sends sensory impulses from the organs of hearing and balance in the inner ear to the brain.
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